Milos Rancic millosh at
Sat Jun 12 20:10:21 CEST 2010

On Sat, Jun 12, 2010 at 18:36, Doug Ewell <doug at> wrote:
> Milos Rancic <millosh at gmail dot com> wrote:
>> In relation to the written language, there are no national differences
>> between variants of Serbian language...
>> At the *spoken* level, there are dialect differences, but written language
>> is always the same.
> ISO 639 code elements and BCP 47 language tags can be used for language that
> is spoken, written, or communicated by any other means.
> So far I am hearing:
> * The language is the same, at all but dialectical levels.

I was not talking about standard Serbian and Montenegrin, but about
standard Serbian in Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia. Those three
varieties are the same.

Marking some text as sr_BA or sr_ME is usually a nonsense as there are
not different written varieties of standard Serbian for Serbia, Bosnia
and Montenegro. All varieties of standard Serbian are the same and
they depend on other paradigms, as scripts and reflexes of "jat" are.

At the other side, spoken language is not related to any particular
national border. So, there are no parallels with Swiss or Austrian
German. It is possible that one dialect is spoken in more than one
country. That situation is with the most of Slavic dialects in

So, there is no "Serbian spoken in Montenegro", but "standard
Serbian", "standard Montenegrin" and two distinctive dialects, spoken
by Serbs and Montenegrins: Eastern-Herzegovian and Zeta-South Sandzak.

Contrary, about relation of Montenegrin and Serbian, it is not about
dialects, it is about standard languages. Standard Montenegrin, as
defined during 2009 has three distinctive phonemes. And it is more
distant linguistically from Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian than they
are between themselves.

It would be good to make clear distinction between terms "standard [1]
 (official [2], national [3] literary [4]) language" and "dialect"
[5]. The first four are defined prescriptively at various levels, the
last one is not. Montenegrin standard language has been invented
during 1990s and it is now actively supported by Montenegrin
government, which includes mandatory speaking three new phonemes by
speakers on the national television. In other words, it is already a

> * The literature is identified as belonging to a single language.

The most of the literature belongs to the single language, but
literature in Montenegrin started to exist.

> * Some Montenegrins identify their language as "Serbian," others identify it
> as "Montenegrin," an issue easily resolved by adding a second description.

This is partially true. It is an expression of political support to
make language different from Serbian. And it is becoming different
from Serbian.

> * Even a Serbian linguist cannot conclusively identify whether a given text
> sample is in Serbian or Montenegrin.

As well as I am not able to identify whether a given text sample is in
Bosnian or Serbian. As well as it is quite possible to make the same
situation for Serbian and Croatian texts.

> Yet, solely because of the precedent set by coding Serbian and Croatian and
> Bosnian separately, Montenegrin too should be coded separately.  I'm really
> not sure I buy this.

We have a problem. Wherever we come and try to incorporate
Montenegrins, we are coming to the situation that they are absolutely
not interested in participation and cooperation because they don't
have their own standards and much of technology is not supported by
their government. And it is just because of one time two letters and
two times three letters which need to be added into some prescriptive
document. I really don't think that it can be such a big deal. If it
was not a big deal when Serbo-Croatian was separated inside of the
codes, which made complete mess, it mustn't be a big deal at the
moment when one code is needed for the beginning of fixing that mess.

Consequences of adding or not that code are not just fictional, but
they affect real lives. As they are already affecting for 15 years,
since ISO 639 accepted separation of sr, bs and hr. So, please, try to
act more responsibly.

[1] -
[2] -
[3] -
[4] -
[5] -

More information about the Ietf-languages mailing list